Cabbage, an endorsement

I come to you today with a simple recommendation: 

Buy a cabbage.

a closeup image of a savoy cabbage, full of texture and shades of green, on a cutting board.

Cabbage! It’s in season! It’s cheap! It goes a really long way! Last week, intending to make Bon Appetit’s cabbage quiche from the latest issue, I purchased a cabbage. I used about a quarter of it to make the quiche, which was a lovely dinner paired with a side salad (I could not find radishes so I did not make the apple and radish salad that was included with the quiche recipe). Even my kids liked it– they can be picky but they will eat very nearly any vegetable in quiche form, which in our house is known as “egg veggie pie.” I buy frozen pie shells to keep around because leftovers can become quiches so easily. 

Another night, I made Bon Appetit’s chipotle cauliflower tacos, and since we had some cabbage kicking around, I made a nice little slaw to go on top of them, with another quarter of the cabbage, some beet sauerkraut I had kicking around in the fridge, shredded carrots, and a lot of cilantro and lime. (I still have some of the slaw leftover, and I’m going to serve it on top of fried pork chop sandwiches tonight, I think.) It went really nicely with the smoky roasted cauliflower and the cilantro lime crema. 

two tacos sit on a blue plate. They are composed of corn tortillas with guacamole, chipotle roasted cauliflower, a cabbage slaw, and topped with a cilantro lime crema.

Last night, I still had half a cabbage. AND, moreover, I also had a fresh batch of chicken stock* (always make homemade if you can, if you can’t, BETTER THAN BOUILLON, BABY) because I had purchased a rotisserie chicken to make a batch of chicken salad for our lunches for the week. And a person in possession of both cabbage and broth should obviously make Smitten Kitchen’s Cozy Cabbage and Farro soup. This one I was skeptical that my kids would eat. So I figured, I’ll enjoy it, they can decide to eat it or choose a leftover from the fridge, no big deal. It was ready when the pickiest kid came home from school, and she asked what’s for dinner. “It’s a cabbage and farro soup with the broth I made yesterday. You can try it if you want, and if you don’t like it, you can choose a different leftover.” She snagged a pinch of the shaved parm waiting to go on top of the soup and tried a bite. “I’ll have that,” she said. I fixed her a bowl with some grilled bread and a ton of parm, and readers, she ate the whole thing. 

A bowl of cabbage and farro soup, topped with shaved parmesan, with two slices of grilled bread.

This singular cabbage’s transformation into at least three meals has inspired me to seek out more cabbage recipes to try soon. Here are a few that look promising: 

*Homemade chicken stock is the reason there is a rule that no one in my household can go to Costco without purchasing a rotisserie chicken. Homemade stock is vastly superior to anything available in a carton or can, and is more economical, too, if you think thrifty– I keep a gallon size bag in my freezer, in which I place onion tops, bottoms, and peels; carrot tops and peels; celery trimmings; mushroom stems; and chicken bones. When it is full, I make stock. My culinary instructors liked to talk about the “magical chicken” where you basically build the cost of the entire chicken into the first meal you make with it, and then you use the other parts to make other things and the carcass to make stock, and all of that stuff is basically FREE MONEY because you already made your money back on the chicken with the first meal. I think this way in my home kitchen as well– if we eat roast chicken for dinner the first night, I have gotten my money’s worth. I then pick the rest of the chicken clean and use the pickings for soup or chicken salad or enchiladas or something, and I use the carcass to make stock, and those things are FREE MONEY. Stock is easy to make on the stove, in a crock pot, or in an instant pot, and it takes very little labor beyond throwing it all in a pot, simmering it for hours (or overnight), then straining. Freeze it flat in bags, use Souper Cubes, or even reduce it down to a thick glace to take up less space and use like your very own homemade Better than Bouillon.

you can’t fail wearing argyle

I feel like I’m literally blowing dust and cobwebs off of this blog, as I haven’t posted in ages. My most recent post was in 2019, but I haven’t blogged regularly since 2018, but probably really since we moved to Denver in 2016.

But I’m back with a new reason for writing: I’m going to culinary school! If you happen to have been around for the first iteration of this blog, you might not be too surprised– some of the most popular posts used to be my weekly CSA boxes and what I’d do with all the produce inside them. I love food. I love to read about food, watch shows about food, plan trips around food, and make food. And now I get to spend the next 15 months getting really serious about food and cooking. 

But before we start on that new path, I want to explain a little bit how I got here.

I graduated college in 2007 with a shiny BA in English and Political Science. I wasn’t immediately sure if I wanted to go on to grad school in English literature to pursue becoming a literature professor, or if I wanted to follow my poli-sci heart to law school. What *was* certain was I’d be following new husband Jon to Charleston, SC for his pediatrics residency. I got a job as an administrative assistant in a real estate firm. Yeah– I got my first post-college job IN REAL ESTATE. IN 2007. Remember what happened to the real estate market in 2008?

I found myself laid off in fall of 2008. Unemployed, I dedicated myself to volunteering for the Obama campaign, and by the time he was inaugurated, I was working as an administrative assistant in the Studio Art Department at the College of Charleston. I watched the inauguration with a crowd in Marion Square. The biggest perk of the college job was, I got to take one free class per semester. I immediately started taking classes in the English department master’s program. Stuff like “Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement” and “18th Century Women Writers.” I loved it. Reading tons of books, writing papers, talking about books, going to an 18th Century Studies conference (nerd alert!) were all extremely my jam.

And when our 3 years in Charleston were up and Jon matched for a Pediatric Emergency Medicine fellowship in Little Rock, I knew I wanted to go to grad school for English and pursue becoming a professor one day. And for the next two years, I went to the University of Central Arkansas and made all A’s and won writing awards and generally thought I was well on my way.

In my second year of the program, I got pregnant. And then that pregnancy turned out to be a twin pregnancy. And then that twin pregnancy turned out to be a very complicated twin pregnancy. I popped a Zofran and went off to school every day of the fall semester, my belly growing slowly to a point where I had to sit sideways in the desks in order to fit. I wisely took the spring semester off, knowing my babies would be born somewhere in March, most likely, and that bed rest was a strong possibility. 

Because you can go read the whole story if you want to, I’m going to make a long story short and say I had a very traumatic post-childbirth near-death experience that involved my heart “catastrophically” failing due to a previously undiagnosed heart defect. And one of my babies is disabled and was also having a major neurosurgery and recovery in a hospital a mile away from the one where I was with the other twin. 


Bless my heart, guys. I had a new chronic health issue, a major case of PTSD (though I didn’t know it at the time), AND NEWBORN TWINS, one of whom has a disability. And still I took my 5 month olds to daycare and tried to finish my degree. I finished all my coursework with straight A’s that fall, and kept the babies in daycare so I could study for my master’s comprehensive exam that spring. In my program, the comps had basically two sections, essays and “ID questions.” I knew I could rock the essays, but I was particularly nervous about the ID section, because I’ve never had a great memory for things like the dates things were written. It was basically going to be a trivia free-for-all based on a list of literally hundreds of great works of English literature. Example: they list a character’s name or a quotation and you have to identify the work, author, when it was written, and say something else you know about that work. 

When I went to pick up my scores a few weeks later, I had, as expected, aced the essays. I can connect works to movements, compare and contrast them with other works, close-read, make thoughtful analysis, talk about meaning and symbolism, and make connections to other disciplines like psychology, religion, history and economics, no problem. But I failed the IDs. The kind of stuff anyone could Google. 

I felt defeated, but told myself I was under a lot of pressure and just needed to study more and try again. I studied and studied and studied, and then I retook the ID portion of the test. I remember putting on a nice outfit to go pick up my scores for my second attempt. I remember sitting on the floor of a hallway, crying, when I found out I failed again.

That’s when a professor in another department found me, asked me what was wrong, and after a sob story about my failure, said to me, “But you can’t fail! You’re wearing argyle!”

Except I did. And at the time, I was so used to basing my self-worth on my academic performance that I was convinced that this was shameful. That I was A Failure. I could have petitioned and begged for a third chance at the ID part of the exam, but I was so ashamed and convinced that it was all my fault, and I had so little support in the department, that I decided not to bother. 

It took me almost the entire intervening decade to realize that while yes, I did fail that part of the comps exam, I was also failed by that English Department. I was obviously a student in the midst of a family crisis– trying to parent twins, while married to someone in an academic medical fellowship (read, working like a dog), while learning to care for my disabled child, while learning to live with a disability myself, while dealing with untreated anxiety and PTSD. I even later realized that both PTSD and the specific medications I take for my heart defect can cause short-term memory issues, like, say, making a former quiz bowl team captain struggle to pass what is essentially a trivia exam. LITERALLY anyone should have suggested that perhaps I needed a leave of absence, and some help. I wish so hard that I had had any inkling back then that it was not actually all my fault, and that I wasn’t “a failure.” 

Wanna know something ironic? The program doesn’t even have the ID section on the exam anymore. They removed it because it was “unfair” and, I suspect, because being able to regurgitate googleable facts isn’t actually nearly as important as the kind of knowledge measured by the essay questions. 

So, I didn’t finish grad school, and I felt like a shameful failure. And I threw myself into being a stay-at-home parent to my girls. And now they’re about to be 10.

In that intervening decade, we’ve moved to Denver and put down some roots. Jon got his “dream job.” I finally got diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety disorder and PTSD and started getting treatment. The girls grew, and we did too. I no longer look at myself as a grad school failure, but a person who was failed by grad school during a very vulnerable time in my life. I wish I could go give that girl crying in the hallway a hug and let her know that she’s gonna be ok. 

So here I am, a decade later. I recently mended a hole in that argyle cashmere and it occurred to me that I’ve done a lot of mending of myself in the last 10 years. I know myself a lot better and like myself a lot more than I did a decade ago. I don’t need good grades, or fancy degrees, or an impressive job to make me feel worthy. And it’s from this place of self-knowledge and worthiness that I’m ready to go back to school. This time for an associate’s degree, not a master’s. I’M GONNA BE A CHEF, Y’ALL. Follow along, will ya?

just let me think it’s my idea: how I came around to Marie Kondo


My husband has minimalist tendencies. A few years ago, he started bringing up the idea to me, and I resisted…fiercely.

“Minimalism makes me sad. I don’t want to have the minimum. When it comes to things that make me happy, I want the MAXIMUM!”

He backed off a bit. He gave up on me reading that Marie Kondo book, which frankly sounded batty to me with all the thanking of inanimate objects and throwing out of all your books. But still, I kept finding boxes by the back door full of things he was purging. “Why are MY CUPS in this box? You are NOT ALLOWED to purge things from MY KITCHEN!”

He just kept taking things to donate to the thrift store and mostly left me (and my kitchen) alone.

I should mention that I’m not some kind of major mess. I feel stressed by clutter, and we keep our house pretty picked up. I own a label maker and take great pleasure in using it. I’ve even been known to save little boxes (the boxes from beauty box subscriptions are the best) and use them to corral things in drawers. I discovered Poshmark thanks to my sister and for the past year have been selling clothes I don’t wear much and buying used things that actually do “spark joy” and get worn regularly. But the idea of purging my whole house seemed extreme. Didn’t we just move 3 years ago and get rid of a ton of stuff? Why do that all over again?

But then my Twitter feed was suddenly full of people talking about the Marie Kondo show on Netflix. I was curious. I watched the first episode and wasn’t super hooked. The husband seemed kind of shitty, and the advice seemed pretty basic. Still, I couldn’t deny that Marie wasn’t the strident, judgmental clean freak that she seemed in print. Instead, she’s a joyful Japanese pixie who gently guides people to cleaner habitats. And the show was just boring and soothing enough that it made for good pre-bedtime viewing. I kept watching.

Some of the weirder things made more sense when I could see them in action. For example, at the start of every decluttering, Marie sits on the floor in the family’s house and sort of communes with it. I am sure there is some Japanese cultural stuff I’m missing, but seeing it, as goofy as it was, I realized she was taking a moment to take seriously the way a home feels and to imagine the way it *could* feel. I know that things give me feelings, and science backs up that clutter literally stresses us out, causing our bodies to secrete more of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s not just woo, it’s an actual body response to our environments.

Also, as I watched her help these families, and as I sat astounded that she actually let people keep say, a wall of boxes of stuff, I realized that she wasn’t expecting perfection, just improvement. If something is important to YOU, no one else can tell you to get rid of it. Even if, were it me on that show, I’d be yelling at you that a wall of boxes full of baseball cards is not a good look for your master bedroom, and probably not good for your sleep or sex life.

I could also see the way her weird folding methods make things more visible and accessible in drawers. So I Kondo’d my folded items. I taught my husband how to Kondo his tee shirts. I Kondo’d my kids’ leggings (though I deviated from her folding method, opting for a roll instead for those). I found myself peeking into my drawers throughout the day, just to smile and feel soothed by the tidiness.

And then yesterday my husband didn’t have to go to work until 2, so after we dropped the kids off at school, I turned to him and said, “I think I am ready to Kondo the kitchen.” He gave me some gentle teasing about how he’s been trying to get me on this bandwagon for years. I told him I’m like a dude– you just have to float an idea and then let it rattle around in my brain until I decide it’s MY idea. So, we set to work. EVERYTHING came out of cabinets and drawers, excepting the pantry areas that I had already reorganized recently (I realize this means we weren’t fully following the KonMari Method, but I also let myself eat cheese on Whole30 because I didn’t want to become lactose intolerant. I am not a rule follower). I also said “WE ARE NOT TOUCHING THE SPICE CABINET” to which Jon responded, “OK, but realize you are at about max capacity there.” (Joke’s on him, we cleaned out that cabinet and now I could expand to a whole ‘nother shelf if I wanted.)

The spice cabinet. As you can see, there’s clearly more room up above.

It took most of the morning, and I continued putting things away even after Jon went to work, but we purged an 18 gallon tub full of stuff from the kitchen and ended up with a much more useful system of organizing. My miscellaneous baking supplies went from a jumble inside our smallest cabinet to an organized, easy to see arrangement where the drinking glasses used to be. The kids’ water bottles ended up in a deep drawer where they can reach them for themselves and fix their own drinks. I agreed to part with a whole stack of plates and a few teacups (which had been in their original boxes since we got married…). My husband decided 6 beer glasses is enough for him. I realized I needed fewer casserole dishes and tossed a bunch of kitchen “unitaskers” as Alton Brown would say– though the cherry pitter remains because I am a person who cans her own cocktail cherries.

The “kid drawer.” All their plates, cups, water bottles, cutlery, and the snacks they’re allowed to grab whenever they need one.

New and improved baking cabinet

The kids’ water bottles used to be here, but now it’s where the drinking glasses go.

The baking stuff used to be crammed in this cabinet, but now it’s for to-go cups and water bottles.

The thing I have realized about Marie Kondo, and the reason it turns out it works for me, is that it’s not about that sad word “minimalism.” It’s about a word I like a lot better: curation. So many of us have more stuff than we need. We have to move the stuff to get to the other stuff that we actually do need. We have to move the stuff to actually get things done. We lose stuff because it’s behind the other stuff. We have to dust the stuff. And we don’t actually care about that stuff or need it, but we keep it for all kinds of reasons. “Sparks Joy” seems like a high bar, but honestly “is it useful, beautiful, or does it make me happy?” is good enough for me. Does it fit me? Do I wear it? Do I like it or am I holding onto it because it was a great deal? Is this something I think I might need someday except someday has never come?

Skillets were in this drawer along with onions and potatoes. The skillets moved to a corner cabinet, and now it’s for pantry items and coffee/tea stuff as it’s under the coffee/tea area.

Our old cutlery organizer was broken and messy and took up the whole drawer. These are from Joseph Joseph via Amazon.

Now, I feel the same kind of joy looking in my tidy cabinets and drawers that I *still feel* when I look at my shelves full of books, which to me are like old friends that I am not interested in parting with at this time. And it turns out Marie isn’t going to make me. She may not want to keep around two different editions of the same crit theory anthology from college, but *I do,* and I actually refer back to them from time to time!

I think part of why I am receptive to all of this at this time is we are now passing the point at which this house becomes the place we have lived the longest. We no longer need to move every 3 years. We are putting down roots, and we might as well make this the place we know it can be for us. Jon’s dreaming of new storage in the entryway, we’ve been fixing up the back yard, we even got solar panels that offset all our energy use. And we’re getting rid of the stuff that we don’t need to take forward with us for our future in this home. And it turns out it’s not sad minimalism, but a joyful creation that affirms that sometimes things make us really happy, and sometimes things are completely unnecessary, and we can figure out the difference and get rid of dead weight.

I really recommend checking out the show with an open mind. Enjoy yelling at the shitty husbands, the lady who needs therapy (ok, wait, that’s all of them), the neurotic dude who needs to stop worrying what his parents think of him, and the guy with 160 pairs of never-worn sneakers. You’ll feel better than some of them, and you just might feel inspired to “tidy” a little yourselves. It doesn’t have to be rigid. It doesn’t have to be everything. And before long you may find yourself staring into your kitchen cabinets as if they are a beautiful sunset.



there is no naughty list

Here is my standard disclaimer about all things parenting related: I merely share what works for me, resonates with me, and interests me. Talking about what works for me is by no means a judgment about what works for other people, unless what works for you is abuse. 

Trying to figure out how to celebrate Christmas with your own kids is fraught territory, especially in the age of Pinterest and Instagram. This is especially true for people of faith who are concerned about the commercialization of our celebration of the birth of Jesus. I find myself smack in the middle of tension between my desire for a meaningful time that reminds my family of who Jesus was and why he was born an also the traditional, but rather irreligious, magic of Santa and reindeer.

While we incorporate an observation of the liturgical season of Advent, a Jesse tree, and making sure to give back to others, I didn’t want to wholly ditch Santa and have my kiddos be the ones informing all their elementary school classmates that the man in the sleigh is a lie. I wanted to find a balance somewhere in between, one that involved celebrating Santa as an embodiment of God’s love and generosity to us, without actively lying to my kids or using Santa to manipulate their behavior.

I am also, admittedly, kind of freaked out by the Elf on a Shelf. I read enough crit theory in my English MA program to feel that the whole thing is rather Foucaultian, a panopticon for children. My general parenting approach is not to coerce good behavior out of my children through a surveillance state or through bribery or threats. I have largely been a student of the “peaceful parent” school, though I admit I have always yelled more than I want to. I think my kids behave best when they feel we are in a warm, loving, and cooperative partnership to have our best days together, and when missteps and misbehavior happen, it is a time for emotion coaching and learning. I just can’t find it in me to be all “SANTA IS WATCHING YOU” in order to get them to behave.

But kids absorb things in our culture, and this week, my kids have been asking me, “Mom, is there such thing as a naughty list?” As I pondered my answer, and clarified my “theology of Santa,” I decided this might be worth firing up ye olde blog and writing about.

My answer is this: there is no naughty list.

First of all: why does Santa give presents at Christmas? Why do any of us give presents at Christmas? Santa gives because Santa (a real man and saint!) loved Jesus very much, and wanted to share that love for others. Just like God freely gives not just the gift of Jesus to the world, but all good things to all people, Santa has a spirit of love and generosity and gives to share the love of God with the world. We, and Santa, give gifts at Christmas because we believe Jesus was a great gift to the world, and because we believe God is a generous giver of gifts.

And if Santa gives and loves like God gives and loves, how does God love? The God I know gives and loves unconditionally. There is nothing you can do to earn or un-earn the love and generosity of God. God lavishes love and gifts on us because of who God is, not who or how we are. Would it make sense for a Santa who gives in the spirit of God’s unconditional love to be doing it conditionally? If I believe in a God who does not keep a record of my wrongs but pours out forgiveness, then how could I teach my children about a Santa who keeps a naughty list?

I never want my kids to doubt for a minute that they are worthy of love and acceptance and belonging. People who believe they are loved and accepted act in loving ways toward others. People who think they are constantly working against a cosmic balance sheet of naughty or nice live in fear and strive to prove their worthiness.

Santa is pretend. A fun myth. Good fun. But the stories we tell and the myths we share shape the way we see the world, Christmas, and God. On Christmas morning Santa will fill my kids’ stockings (in our house, Santa only does the stockings) because he is sharing the love of God with them, a love that in turn should inspire us to love and give to others.

so what the heck have we been eating?


So, in my last post I mentioned that Whole 30 (ish) had inspired a radical change in our diet. Jon and I have both been researching why we’re feeling so good, and are pretty committed to eating a more paleo-ish diet, or as Dr. Mark Hyman described it, a “pegan” diet that takes the best of paleo and veganism and combines them. Lots of good protein, healthy fats, and veggies, with little sugar or grains.

Breakfasts pretty much always involve eggs. I learned the perfect hack for awesome scrambled eggs: crack eggs into blender, blend them until frothy, and bam, you’ve got perfect fluffy scrambled eggs. We’re also into fried eggs with sauteed greens or veggies plus a side of sugar-free bacon or some breakfast sausage. I’ve made breakfast casseroles full of veggies, and also omelets full of veggies. A particularly decadent topping for scrambled eggs? Crisped proscuitto! Sometimes we have hash browns, because we’ve been sort of using potatoes as a crutch to get away from grains, but we’d like to eat those less often, too.

Coffee-wise, we’ve discovered we love black coffee. I also made cashew milk for the first time, and have been loving it in coffee as well.

Lunches are almost always giant salads. Mine always involve arugula and maybe some romaine for crunch, or some “cruciferous crunch” mix from Trader Joe’s that has kale, shaved brussels sprouts, and radiccio. I throw in tomatoes or cucumbers or peppers, add avocado, and then some chicken breast, leftover steak, or canned salmon or tuna. Usually I put almonds or pumpkin seeds on too. Dressings are usually homemade vinaigrettes. I truly love salads with lots of vinegary dressing, and don’t really see myself getting tired of them anytime soon. This is also basically what I did for lunch before all our big changes. Leafy, crunchy, bitter, salty things are my fave. If I don’t have a salad, I warm up some leftovers.

Kid lunch note: I still pack sandwiches on Dave’s Killer Bread. Sometimes they get chicken noodle soup in thermoses. We’re not making the kids be completely grain free.

Snacks! I’ve discovered I like a simple smoothie made of frozen berries, kale, coconut milk, almond milk, flax seeds, and almond butter. Berries are super good for you, and I don’t eat them (or fruit really) very often. We’re also into beef sticks, these little fruit and nut rounds from Trader Joe’s that are either just apricots and cashews or dates/cashews/cacao. Homemade kale chips are a fave, but I will eat an entire massive bag of kale turned into kale chips in one sitting. Jon loves to snack on plain nuts. My late night love is just a giant bowl of arugula with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and I’m also obsessed with pickles and olives. We’ve also been going through honeycrisp apples, with or without almond or cashew butter, like whoa. Guacamole with plantain chips or gluten free tortilla chips is a forever fave.

Dinners! Here I’ll share some recipes we’ve really liked. I must say, the kiddos have really enjoyed this change and have been eating more dinner than they usually do. Very rarely I make them a side of rice or pasta to round out their meals. Below are embedded pins from Pinterest, so if you don’t see them in your RSS reader, click through.














There’s a zillion more recipes if you click through to that “What the Heck Should I Eat” pinboard. Any questions?

I can see now why people get so evangelical about diets

Newsflash: Instagram is Filtered | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Newsflash: Instagram is Filtered | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Back in January, I was crying in my doctor’s office. I’ve been exhausted for the past 6 years. At first, I thought it was called “having baby twins” and expected things would get better as they started sleeping better. But they’re turning 6 this month, and they’ve been sleeping great for actual years, and I was still falling-down-exhausted all of the time. This was something I felt great guilt and shame about. I took multiple-hour naps most days while getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night and I still felt exhausted all of the time. I had no energy to do anything beyond basically existing, and I felt like a lazy slob. I had also figured out by then that this wasn’t about having twins, but about the hardcore medicines I have to stay on because my heart failed that one time and we found out I have a congenital defect.

As I cried to my doctor, she wondered briefly if I had sleep apnea or thyroid problems (no and no, it turns out), but concluded that yeah, feeling the way I felt was pretty normal with the doses of medication I was on. This didn’t make me feel better, because I’m never allowed to stop taking this stuff. I am on it forever, because I like the whole “having a heartbeat thing.” When I pictured years and years of the future feeling that way, I just felt depressed and hopeless.

Jon and I like to try different diets around Lent, not always as a Lenten discipline, but because it’s a good time for us to make those sort of changes, and having a finite time period works well for us. I have, like you, a zillion friends who are rather…enthusiastic about the Whole 30 program. I have argued with them about it, even. Expressed my disinterest in ever trying it. Freaked out because I read that article about the woman who did Whole 30 and lost her ability to eat dairy, my favorite food and one of my great joys in life, no exaggeration.

I did not read the book, or anything, but I actually suggested to Jon that we try it…. for him. He has some gut/digestive issues and is lactose intolerant, and we thought maybe trying an elimination-type diet might help us figure out something to make him feel better. We decided to try it for Lent, making it more of a Whole 40. We also decided not to be super rigid about it, me especially– I didn’t want to lose my ability to eat cheese, and wasn’t super keen on giving up dairy, grains, sugar AND booze, so I decided to let myself have wine on the weekends and some cheese here and there. (Yes, I know, Whole 30 purists would love to start yelling at me about how it’s not really Whole 30, then, and frankly I do not give a flying flip.)

We’re now past the 30 day mark and I really might keep going forever. Really.

First, I would like to pause and say that I truly believe every body is different and that I think different bodies need different things and may find optimal wellness on very different eating plans. What works for me may not work for you. Maybe you feel your best as a vegan or whatever, and I totally absolutely support you in that. There is no single right way to eat for every single body and I am only sharing what works for me. Also: I am not into dieting for weight loss, and I’m not into fat-shaming or food-shaming. Eating is a great source of joy for me. I think food is a gift. “Taste and see that the Lord is Good” is literally my favorite Bible verse. Rigidity annoys me. Making something forbidden or bad always makes me want to do it more. Rules are made to be broken Moderation in all things. ETC. Just so we’re clear.

Anyway, we decided to try this thing. And at first it was annoying and we felt like we were starving all the time and wondered if we were going to make it. I may have suggested to a friend that I was contemplating holding up a McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin (another of my great joys in life). A glass of bourbon in the evenings sounded REALLY GOOD to me most of the time. I spent one week entirely too caffeinated because I discovered that I actually really love black coffee, and it was entirely too easy to just keep topping off my cup to keep it warm without having to tweak cream and sugar ratios.

But after I stopped drinking too much coffee and feeling very Jessie Spano SO EXCITED AND SO SCARED, one day Jon pointed something out: I hadn’t been napping in many days. And I was like, “Yeah, and you know what? I feel amazing. I have the energy to do more than just exist.” I STARTED TAKING AFTERNOON WALKS. I do not wake up tired, and I also do not wake up feeling stiff or sore. When Jon suggested taking the girls to a Mexican Circus he discovered on Groupon, my first thought wasn’t “how will I find the energy to do that” but “sounds interesting and fun!”

I have so much energy now that I actually feel something like my old pre-heart-failure self. The girl who was known for being a little bit hyper, if anything. The girl who often practically bounced through life. A way I haven’t felt in 6 or 7 years, to be honest, because twin pregnancy was also mostly just a year of napping for me (makes sense, my defective heart was struggling to keep us all alive). I am also taking less anxiety medication because this all happened around the time that something got screwed up with my prescription that led to me taking a lower dose. I feel so much better than I was feeling before that I actually get choked up talking about it.

So now I’m trying to figure out what it is about all these changes have made me feel so much better. Before this experiment, we were mostly vegetarian, and our meals involved a lot of beans, vegetables, and whole grains, plus seafood, dairy, and once-a-week meat. I read Food: What the Heck Should I Eat by Dr. Mark Hyman, founder of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, a guy who literally treats people like me who have chronic illnesses by using food as medicine. After reading the book, I definitely think that my body (my body! not necessarily yours!) needed a LOT more protein and (good) fat than I was eating before. I think drastically reducing sugar and grains, which my body thinks of as basically sugar, as well as not drinking (sugar and grains!) nearly as much as I was, have contributed to my improved energy levels.

So, now I’m going to start experimenting, keeping the main framework of the diet the same as it has been. I want to add legumes back in. I want to try eating a little brown rice, or other grains like farro, quinoa, and barley. I might gingerly add in some gluten. I’m going to keep my drinking drastically lower than it has been. I’m going to keep up on the protein and fat. And I’ll let you know how it goes!

I promise not to become a missionary for my new way of eating. This is all just about MY body, after all. But this change has been so revolutionary for me that I just had to write about it. And I might keep writing about it too.


the good place valentines

My current favorite show and light of my life is “The Good Place.” Every character on it is so pure and good and wonderful, and it’s so smart and hilarious. I think the entire cast is my new fantasy dinner party. Inspired by my love of the show, I decided to create some “The Good Place” valentines, and they amused me so much, I decided to share them here. Feel free to print one out and give it to someone you’d like to mash food holes with this Valentine’s Day. (Shoutout to my friend Rebecca for helping me brainstorm some of these!)



skincare update

Resolved: no more “Sorry it’s been so long since I blogged” apologies when I finally blog. This is an unpaid personal blog. It’s not like I have editors breathing down my neck. I blog when I have something to say, and that’s that.

Anyway, I continue to be obsessed with skincare. I read about it all the time. I love talking about it with other people. I love giving advice. My face has become an ongoing science experiment. My anxiety coping mechanism has turned into a full-blown hobby. And I’m not alone! Apparently skincare has become a hobby for a lot of people lately.

I’ve had a few requests for an updated post with what I’m using these days, so here it is.  Reminder: I am 33 years old and have skin that tends toward dry, and I live in a dry climate. My main skin concerns are dryness and preventing signs of aging. I have been dealing with some breakouts since getting my IUD removed, but I am not generally acne-prone. I like to use “natural” products when possible, but am not opposed to being blinded with science. Let’s jump in with my current morning routine:


  1. I start with a quick swipe of Thayer’s to get any grime or oiliness off my face before I start. Rarely, if I have really loaded on oils or balms the night before, I’ll actually really wash my face in the mornings, but usually, I think a quick swipe of toner is enough for me. You can get this at Target or Walgreens or wherever (even Amazon), and it’s hydrating and happens to smell nice.
  2. I started using Timeless’s Vitamin C+E+Ferulic Acid serum because I have been dealing with some hyperpigmentation from some breakouts I’ve had since getting my IUD removed. It contains L-Ascorbic Acid, which is the most effective form of Vitamin C you can get for hyperpigmentation, and the Vitamin C is stabilized and made even more effective in combination with Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid. Downside: Ferulic Acid smells like hot dogs. Sad but true. I definitely think this is working harder on my hyperpigmentation spots than my Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum did, as the Mad Hippie uses a different form of Vitamin C.
  3. I did not want to like this Sunday Riley CEO moisturizer. It is expensive. But I got a little sample jar of it with a Sephora order and damn if my face doesn’t love this stuff. It’s super moisturizing and makes my face glowier and smoother. I’m like, mad at how much I like it.
  4. This W3LL PEOPLE tinted moisturizer has replaced my beloved Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer. I like that it’s SPF 30 and has lots of skin-benefitting ingredients. I find it looks best when applied with a foundation brush rather than with my fingers. It’s moisturizing, but not moisturizing enough to be my only moisturizer in the mornings in dry Denver. If you’re oily or live in a more humid place, you might not need a moisturizer under it. It has a “satin finish” which I think looks fine without powder, and gives me the dewy well-moisturized look I’m into. I wish it came in a wider range of shades, but that’s my only complaint. I wear “light.” Also: it’s now carried at Target! This is great for me as I always get 5% off (and free online shipping) because I have a Red Card.

Speaking of that tinted moisturizer, here’s basically the entirety of my daily makeup routine:


  1. The aforementioned W3LL PEOPLE Bio Tint, applied with a Tarte foundation brush.
  2. Tarte Amazonian Clay blush in Exposed.
  3. Glossier Boy Brow in Brown. I order this when I want to buy Milky Jelly Cleanser, and I like it a lot, but I’ve also discovered a good dupe is Maybelline Brow Precise Fiber Volumizer. Other Glossier stuff I’ve tried are the Stretch Concealer which I think creases too much, especially around the eyes, which is where I usually wear concealer, and Generation G lipstick in Jam which is literally my jam. So, Glossier is a bit hit or miss with me. The cleanser, Boy Brow, and Jam are pretty great, though.
  4. My ride or die mascara, Clinique Lash Power. I have been loyal to this stuff for like a decade. I’m not sure why I keep trying other mascaras, because I never love them like I love this stuff.
  5. My fave daily lip balm, Smith’s rosebud salve.
  6. I used to wear eyeshadow a lot, but now that I have glasses, I feel like it’s not as necessary. Sometimes I’ll dab some highlighter on my lids or something, but I really don’t wear it daily anymore. It’s much more important to me now to have my brows looking good than to wear eyeshadow.

Here’s my face wearing the above (hello, lopsided eyes), in natural light (by a window) with no filter, taken with my crappy iPhone 6:


Let’s move on to my evening routine! Note: I do not do everything every night, and some nights I mask or focus on hydration, but this is the general routine. Also, I spread this out over the course of the evening. I’ll wash my face after dinner, put on my exfoliator, start getting the kids into their jammies, then put on my retinoid, finish the kid bedtime, put on oil, watch a show, put on moisturizer, etc. This gives each layer some time to absorb/work.


  1. If I have been wearing makeup or sunscreen, I always start with an oil cleanse first. Contrary to everything screamed at us in the 90s, oil does not make your face oily or clog your pores. Oil dissolves oil and is excellent at melting away sunscreen and makeup. I am currently using DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, but I also like Burt’s Bees and Trader Joe’s oil cleansers. I massage a couple of pumps around my face for a good minute or two. Because oil is so good at dissolving oil, you may feel actual grits of sebum/gunk coming out of your pores as you massage an oil cleanser around. Oil cleansing is GREAT at dislodging sebaceous filaments and making your pores look cleaner and less noticeable. Oil cleansers, unlike straight oil, contain emulsifiers, so when I rinse this off with water, it turns milky and rinses clean.
  2. Next up I use Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser to really get my skin clean once it’s free of makeup. This is a super gentle cleanser that doesn’t make my face feel dry or tight. Some people think it smells like roses, but I don’t really smell anything?
  3. Next is a new purchase that I am also mad at. CURSE YOU SUNDAY RILEY AND YOUR EXPENSIVE SHIT THAT WORKS LIKE ACTUAL MAGIC. This, of course, is the famous Good Genes lactic acid treatment. No, I didn’t buy a $100+ bottle. I got the “Flash Fix” kit that comes with a teeny bottle and a small bottle of the Ceramic Slip Cleanser (which I haven’t tried yet) for $28. This stuff is sorcery. It clears up my sebaceous filaments (those things in your nose and chin pores that often get confused with blackheads but are not in fact blackheads), clears up congested pores, and I swear to goodness, minimizes my forehead lines (I have very expressive eyebrows, OK?) I’m going to have to get an actual bottle.
  4. Next I use The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, which is mercifully under $10 and now available at Sephora. Apparently Kim Kardashian also uses it. It’s a very gentle retinoid and would be a great first step into retinoids. HOWEVER, if your skin is not used to acid exfoliation and retinoids, I do not recommend using both on the same night. Alternate. My face is ok with this stuff, but I’ve accidentally over-exfoliated before, and it’s not fun. I do have a referral to see a dermatologist (my doc wants me to get checked for skin cancer regularly because I’m so fair and have had bad burns in the past) and I might ask about getting on actual Retin-A/tretinoin. Another note: if you use retinoids or acid exfoliation, ALWAYS WEAR SPF.
  5. Botanics 100% Organic Nourishing Facial Oil is one of my longtime loves. Super moisturizing, and has rosehip which helps promote an even skin tone. This stuff is available from Target and Ulta, and I always have a backup bottle ready to go.
  6. CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion: I started using this because it has niacinamide, which is good for fading redness, which is something I deal with every time I get a blemish– the red spot lingers long after the zit is gone. This is a great moisturizer, and if you’re not particularly dry, would be great on it’s own, without an oil underneath. It layers great over my oils and serums, and I’ve been happy with it.
  7. Farmacy Honey Drop Moisturizer. This contains hyaluronic acid which is great at pulling moisture into your skin, and I find it helps my skin absorb everything I’ve put on before it. I think this is my new, more natural replacement for Clinique Moisture Surge Extra.
  8. The mysterious blue bottle is my DIY facial mist. I like to mist it on over the Honey Drop to give it one last layer to pull in. It’s just Thayer’s (see morning routine) plus some of a bottle of facial oil I was almost done with (I think it’s Mad Hippie Antioxidant Facial Oil). I also like to spritz this on throughout the day for extra hydration since I am a delicate southern flower who has moved to Dry World.


Note: none of these links are affiliates, and I bought all this stuff myself. Zero sponsors. (How I wish someone would send me free fancy skincare, but that ain’t happening!)


be the seatmate you want to see in the world

Hide and Seek//

Last week, I got to go to Las Vegas with a girlfriend who was there for a conference. She attended the conference all day while I read by the pool/wandered around the strip, and then we hung out and saw shows and ate amazing things every night.

To get there, I had to fly Southwest. I know, most people adore Southwest for their reasonable fares and funny staff members and for letting you check a bag for free and for not nickel-and-diming their customers at every opportunity. I have a grudge against them because they don’t assign you a seat, but instead, you get assigned a boarding number based on when you check in, and then it’s like a free-for-all to find a seat. I am so scatterbrained, I never remember to check in on time and thus end up in the crappy, you’re gonna have a middle seat, good luck finding space in the overhead bins group. True story, I once cried on a Southwest flight because I was PREGNANT WITH TWINS and didn’t get to sit next to my husband because we hadn’t remembered to check in on time. I JUST WANT AN ASSIGNED SEAT, DAMMIT.

Anyway, I actually managed to get in the B boarding group for my flight to Vegas, miracle of miracles. I always feel blissfully unencumbered when flying without my kids. It’s like, long security lines? No problem, at least I’m not trying to keep a couple of five year olds happy and in line. You need me to take off my shoes, show you my liquids, maybe even pat me down? Great. At least I’m not also taking off two other people’s shoes and hustling them through the lines. Basically, my good mood when flying without my children cannot be stopped.

As I waited to board, I heard a baby losing his mind. My first thought was “I hope I’m not next to that baby! I’m flying without kids, finally! I *deserve* a quiet, relaxing flight.”

But then I got on the plane to look for a seat, and saw the mom of that baby, flying alone with him and his preschool-aged brother. The aisle seat next to them was open. I didn’t really want to take it, but then a thought popped into my head: “Be the seatmate you want to see in the world.” I think it was inspired by my own airplane angel from a long-ago flight with my kids.

I sat down next to the mom. “Hi! I’ll sit next to you– I have twins, myself.” She smiled, “I didn’t think ANYONE would want to sit with us. Thank you so much!”

The kids did as great as a preschooler and a lap baby can do on a flight, which was also not particularly long, thankfully. The preschooler watched movies on his tablet and occasionally demanded snacks. The baby was wiggly and in need of constant distraction, occasionally emitting a squawk before his mom and I distracted him with something else, but no prolonged crying or anything. Big win? Let the baby play with ice cubes on the tray table. That entertained him the longest.

The mom and I chatted, and I was glad I sat next to them. It felt like sisterhood. Moms need to look out for each other.

We arrived in Vegas, and I left the little family at the end of the jetway, mom competently putting the stroller together and getting her kids settled. She had it handled, so I kept moving, eager to get to my hotel and grab some dinner.

As I reached the end of the jetway, I heard a man scream, “GET THAT FUCKING SCREAMING BABY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!” I turned to see a big guy fully decked out in Broncos gear literally yelling at a woman alone with two kids. I stared, mouth agape, as he walked toward and past me.

I wish I had said something like, “Babies can’t help it if they act like a-holes, but what’s your excuse?”

Instead all I could do was stare. Would he have screamed at her if her husband had been with her? Did anyone who witnessed the event say anything to him? Why didn’t the flight attendant who was standing right there say something? Can that guy get like, banned from future flights?

I can only imagine how rattled the mom was, and I wish I had caught up with her to check in. “You OK, sis?” There is no one more stressed and uncomfortable on a flight with small kids than those kids’ parent(s). Here, she had just survived the flight, oh sweet relief, and her kids had actually done as great as you can expect any kids their ages to do, and then she gets screamed at by an intimidating stranger?

I’m still furious with that man.

But in spite of his hatred, I’d like to share the main lesson I learned on that flight: be the seatmate you want to see in the world. Remember the hard times you’ve had, and let them give you compassion towards people dealing with stressful situations, like traveling with small children. Don’t huff. Don’t roll your eyes. Help. At the very least, offer a kind glance and a smile. Pack your earplugs and your noise-cancelling headphones if you must, but remember, while babies don’t have self-control, you do. Exercise it.

Image above via Flickr user fred C under a Creative Commons license.

look for the helpers

We don’t have a TV in our main living space, and Jon and I almost never watch TV news (when we do, the kids are in bed or not in the room, because we watch in our bedroom usually after bedtime, and it’s because we’re following a breaking event or watching a live speech or something). I figure, they’re 5, and I don’t want to overwhelm them with the problems of the world just yet, especially since Claire tends toward anxiety. We talk about issues and events, but I just don’t want them exposed to wall-to-wall coverage or the sensationalism and graphic imagery so often part of TV news. This wasn’t even a super conscious decision to protect them from TV news, but more a result of my own awareness about my anxiety– I do better reading print/online news than watching it on TV, too. This has been especially true since the election.

I haven’t talked to them about recent natural disasters, but we were eating at a neighborhood Mexican restaurant last night, and they had a Mexican news station on TV. Of course most of the coverage was about the Mexico City earthquake. We had been eating when I noticed a concerned look on Claire’s face. “What is happening? Are those people dead? What happened to that building?” I realized she’d been watching the coverage, taking in the images even if she couldn’t understand the speaking, which to me had been background noise along with the oom-pa-pa mariachi music playing on the radio.

Embed from Getty Images

How to explain an earthquake to my worried child without causing her to develop a fear that one might happen to us? I told her there was an earthquake in Mexico City, and that a lot of buildings fell down when the ground shook. “Did people die?” Yes, some people died, but a lot of people are still alive in the rubble, and the people they are showing right now are the helpers. They are digging the people out and saving them. So many people will be helpers after something terrible like this happens, and we’re so thankful for the helpers.

Embed from Getty Images

I don’t know if I got it right, but my general parenting philosophy is that following the advice of Mr. Rogers can never be wrong. He said:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”


I don’t watch the news because it feels like the end of the world lately: earthquakes, hurricanes, shootings, nuclear war, and an evil man in charge of our country. I need to look for the helpers, too. I need to protect my children and myself, and I also need to help the helpers.

Some organizations we like to support include World Vision, Doctors Without Borders, and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.  Feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments. I’d also love to know if you protect your kids from TV news, and what age you think is appropriate for them to be exposed to it.

%d bloggers like this: